Not too long ago, I received an invitation to an Arts Festival in Baguio. Having a lot of time in my hands, thanks to my recent retirement from the academe, I immediately accepted the invitation.
Since this Baguio trip was for something I haven’t done before in the City of Pines, naturally, I got excited. Of course, I chose to stay at The Manor, as I wanted to be assured of a very relaxing respite from my harried life in the lowlands.
On the festival’s opening day, I made sure I’d find the venue right away, as I was told it was quite a distance from the hotel. When I asked the hotel’s concierge for specific directions, I almost fell to the floor when I found out where the event was going to take place.
The invitation named the venue as “Dominican Hill and Retreat House” but the concierge explained to me that it is actually the former Diplomat Hotel which, I know, has been featured countless times on TV as a site that is brimming with the paranormal. They showed on TV apparitions of a lady in white, a headless soldier, a little boy running all over the place and crying for his mother, etc. Of course, it scared the wits out of me
With all that on my mind, I wanted to back out of my acceptance of the invitation but, since I was already in Baguio for that purpose, I decided to attend the event. After all, I was sure there would be hordes of guests to keep me company.
So there I was, in the chilling and eerie environs of the former Diplomat Hotel, with nary a tinge of fear in me, as I was part of a big crowd celebrating Baguio’s designation by UNESCO as one of the world’s “Creative Cities.”
The ENTACool week-long festival, which the city plans to host yearly, is expected to draw as many tourists as the very popular Panagbenga Flower Festival. My friends from the Tourism Promotions Board explained to me that “Enta” is taken from the word “entaku,” which means “let’s go and participate.” “Cool,” of course, refers to the city’s climate.
At the venue, the University of Baguio and the University of the Cordilleras presented some entertainment numbers before the Welcome Remarks of Mayor Mauricio Domogan. Messages were also delivered by Baguio Congressman Mark Go, Philippine National Commission for UNESCO secretary general Lila Ramos Shahani, and Baguio Arts and Crafts Collective, Inc. chairperson Adelaida Lim.
The festival logo was later unveiled and projected on the walls of the hotel, definitely giving life to a venue that is known by all to be a haunting ground of the dead. The aforementioned VIPs, including my friends, Tourism Promotions Board chief operating officer Marie Venus Tan and Cultural Center of the Philippines chairman Margie Moran Floirendo, were later gathered together to toast to this landmark event and to officially cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Of course, I wasted no time in going inside the run-down hotel which has been spruced up for the occasion. Inside were beautiful paintings and art installations by various Baguio artists, certainly giving justice to the city’s new tag as one of the 180 UNESCO Creative Cities in the world.
According to UNESCO, Creative Cities commit to develop and exchange innovative best practices to promote creative industries, strengthen participation in cultural life, and integrate culture into sustainable urban development policies.
According to Mayor Domogan, the week-long festival also puts the spotlight on the products and services offered by Baguio City’s craftsmen, something that has not really been given much recognition in the past. The city even created a website designed to be the platform in promoting the city’s budding artists to the rest of the country and of the world.
This focus on the city’s unique culture is certainly a most laudable move, taking into consideration its increasing population of goldsmiths, sculptors, woodcarvers, weavers, and basket-makers.
Kudos to the TPB for making this event possible...and for giving the once-chilling and derelict Diplomat Hotel a new lease of life as a venue for art exhibits, and other happy and celebratory events.
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